305: Leaning in to Owning Your Business of YOU: My Journey
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As you’ve been listening to season 3 about building a business of you, what has been coming up regarding what that means for you and your business? Have you been thinking about your business and maybe even looking at your brand and positioning a little bit differently? Have you been trying out some of the tactics offered by some of my guests? Or has this season stirred more longing for you to try something a little more personally branded to your passion? Regardless, if you’re a listener, thank you, and I hope what I share in these episodes helps you move closer to enjoying your biggest dreams for your business and your life as a solopreneur.
In this episode, I want to share with you my story. No, not my whole life story, just what is going on with me and my business right now because it’s pertinent to this season’s theme.
I’ll start with the vision: I am augmenting my business with a coaching and events component that I am really excited about—you know, the kind of excited that is rooted in passion and enthusiasm and the stay-up-all-night thinking and planning it excited. And, I’m also a bit freaked out about it. A lot. Why? Oh, the usual reasons, failing, screwing it up, not having any success from it, putting myself out there in a raw and real way and having nobody care or getting rejected, the usual “stories” I have in my head that have kept me playing small the entire 13 plus years I’ve been in business as a solopreneur.
Let me give you a quick backstory of my business as a solopreneur, in the event you haven’t really heard me talk about it in detail. It will help you understand why this is such a big thing for me right now. And just as a side note, I really want this podcast to have authenticity and vulnerability. And, yes, this episode I will be showing you my soft underbelly. The reason why is that if I don’t share what I’m scared about, what I’m struggling with, how is it going to help soothe someone who is going through a similar challenge? If I’m constantly projecting this strong, capable rock star image (so not true, by the way), after a while it becomes tired and trite. The information shared no longer has impact or influence because it becomes repetitive and self-promoting. So I want to do damage to that by being more me and sharing my personal thoughts and struggles as I navigate my own solopreneur business. I’ve tried to do that on every episode, but this one, I’m really going deep.
Okay, so back to my backstory. My entire career—the way I’ve supported myself my whole adult life—has always been based on my skill set as a graphic designer and copywriter. That’s what my degree and certifications are in and what pretty much every job I’ve been hired for asked of me. I did everything from customer service rep at a commercial printer to a graphic designer at a newspaper to leading a web team at Marriott International. It was always about the tactical execution of a tangible marketing or communications deliverable. Websites, logos, brochures, lead magnets, funnels, scripts, ebooks, illustrations, presentations, videos, you name it, I created it. I was constantly learning new trades, new techniques and self-educating on anything and everything that touched business development, branding and marketing.
In 2006 I was laid off of my job after six years working for Marriott International. They were doing massive layoffs and outsourcing as much as possible due to economic changes that many people suffered through in the mid to late 2000s. When I tried to replace that job with another, it was a real struggle. The economic downturn was hitting everyone hard. And this was less than two years after my husband Chuck passed away from cancer.
Marriott had been a life raft for me after that tragedy and when the layoff happened, it totally destroyed my confidence and sense of security. Especially when I couldn’t find a replacement job even at a lower salary. I thought about going back to school to get an additional degree in writing, but decided against it when I saw how much tuition was. While I was searching for full time work, I decided to freelance as a web designer. I enjoyed designing websites, however, I had little experience getting work as a freelancer because I’d always had a corporate environment driving my work. It was quite a few steps backward in my career, as at Marriott I’d been a bonus-level director leading other people. I went from making just over $100K with massive benefits to an hourly rate of $17.50 and no benefits or insurance.
That’s right. I said $17.5 an hour. The first freelance “gig” I got was from an ad I placed in my neighborhood’s online classifieds. It read, “50% off for Baldwin Park residents on website design.” The hourly rate I felt I was worth at the time I set at $35/hr, hence the $17.50. I got my first client that way. And guess what? He still reaches out to me for work and has repeatedly since 2006. Although I don’t charge $35/hr anymore. In fact, I’ve learned hard lessons about charging hourly. But that’s for another podcast.
Well, that gave me a little boost in confidence. Slowly, referrals from people I knew or had worked with at Marriott started flowing my way. It was incredible how it all unfolded. I never advertised again and every new client I got was from a referral stream that kept me busy year after year. I expanded what I was doing to branding, copywriting, marketing, print collateral design and video. Before I knew it, I was running a full-service boutique creative services firm all based on my skills and experience.
But here’s the thing: I was still stuck in the technician’s role. I was at my computer creating, designing, coding and copywriting. I was going on location to video clients. I started doing qualitative interviews over the phone and compiling research that created new marketing campaigns and strategies. The more people I worked with the more business challenges and markets I learned. I had clients in transportation, education, health care, telecommunications—you name it, I got to learn it so I could do it. But I was doing all of the work and running the business.
I started seeing patterns in how ill-informed my clients typically were about their customers. That expanded my offerings to do the qualitative research. It also inspired me to rebrand my company’s name from Terry Pappy Creative Services (yeah, doesn’t THAT scream freelancer) to what it is now, which is Better3. The Better3 came from a new model I created that drove all of my marketing deliverables: Better understanding of the customer, better communications and better relationships which result in long term customer value. Better3. It was the driving force behind the creative strategies I now use in my business, which really became more concrete in the last two years.
Fast forward to today, I am still an implementer, but I don’t implement one thing until I take my clients through a KISS Marketing Map which is an assessment of their business which builds a strategic plan that drives deliverables and tactics. Simple, right? Years before this got formalized, I never charged for it or distinguished it as a product. Now I do. I have built the Better3 brand on creative marketing implementation that is grounded in a custom strategy based on what each client wants for their business. I’ve evolved into a creative strategist who can implement super fast and get a client attracting new business in weeks. It’s a proven deliverable that has transformed many of my client’s entire businesses.
Because it is so strong and solid an offering, I’m fearful what this new chapter is going to do to it. I’m not stopping the implementation of tactics portion of my business, however, I do want to grow the strategic side of my business. I want to do more coaching, training and hold live events designed to help business owners use creativity to improve their products, delivery or entire business model. And I’m super passionate about it. I feel I’m at a place in my career where I am ready to step into more of a powerful role as a guide to my clients.
Yet, I’m gonna be totally honest with you here, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that people will only want to work with me for the deliverables I create. That they want that tangible “thing” for their money. The website. The sales funnel. The branding. The lead generation and nurture series. I have this story in my head that intangibles—especially my intangibles—are going to be challenging to offer and sell. That they won’t be as easy to convey because they’re not a thing, per se. That people want me for my tactical creations, not my business guidance or coaching. And it’s all a STORY IN MY HEAD!
This story is rooted in my entire life as a creative technician. So it makes perfect sense why I’d be nervous about putting myself out there as an expert guide for strategy, for confidence building, for creative inspiration and for helping other business owners break through barriers that keep them playing small. My resistance to this entire effort of my new offering is keeping me stuck, distracted and delaying producing the platform and putting myself out there. Plus, I’ve always kind of “hid” inside my company, Better3. This new offering is me putting myself out there in an entirely different way—now, in essence, I’m the product, not what I create. That’s scary exposure.
So here we are, my confession and soft underbelly exposed, you now know what I’m dealing with in my life. I can’t offer you much of a conclusion as I’m in the midst of moving this forward and getting it done and out into the world. But don’t worry, I’m not going to let myself get away with procrastination or excuses. This is happening. Just by talking about it right now I am committing to you that I will get it done. And I will make it happen, fear and all. It’s important to me. There are so many people out there that I know I can help because I know my shit. I’ve been through a lot in the nearly forty years of doing this work and lemme tell you. There’s a lot left in me to give before I’m done.
I can’t help others if I don’t share my story and if I don’t break through my own barriers to get to the other side. I want to feel both sides of the journey, so I can have more empathy for those just starting their journey.
So what makes everything I just shared fit into this season about the power of a business of you? This new venture I’m creating is all about me leveraging the power of a business of ME. I’m putting me out there more. I’m basing this part of my business on my biggest passion: creativity. I’m risking everything by positioning myself as an expert guide offering intangibles, not just a technician building an asset that can be replaced like a commodity. I’m stepping into the person I’ve been creating my entire life and allowing her to do what she does best: inspire, guide and create. And as scary as it is to me, I am unbelievably excited about it and can’t wait. Thanks for listening and allowing me the space to, well, pour my heart out.
Here are my final thoughts to you. As you continue listening to the rest of this season, the interviews, the additional shows I’ll be doing, ask yourself where you may be holding back in your business? What story are you telling yourself that is keeping you playing small? What can you get rid of in your business that isn’t satisfying anymore? What can you add to your work that will make you feel the passion you used to? People want to do business with people who love what they do and show it. If you’re not loving what you do, if you’re not feeling energized and eager to serve others who need your expertise, it may be time to get a little creative and take a fresh look at your work world. You deserve to be happy and fulfilled by what you do. That’s why being a solopreneur is the easiest way to achieve that state of mind and make unlimited income doing so! Use your business to deliver yourself and what makes you, YOU, to the world. It’s what I’m working on, so why don’t you join me? We can do it together.